Anxiety is a natural response to stress and we all suffer from it. Some of us are, however, more prone to it and may even suffer from anxiety disorder. Spotting these signs in friends or ourselves will help us understand and deal with anxiety better. Some may say the reactions are exaggerated but when we are experiencing anxiety, the rational mind stops working. Fears seem larger than life and we may even feel like we are drowning under the weight of these worries. Asking someone to ‘stay normal’ only makes them more anxious about how they are being a burden on others because of their fearful reactions. Relaxing is something we all want to do, but is that even a choice for some of us when we have to overcome PTSD from traumatic situations far beyond the scope of human psychology? There is no instant fix for erasing a troubled childhood. Multiple sessions with a therapist may help make progress but the process may take years. To help a friend deal with anxiety, we need to act with compassion and be empathetic towards them on a daily basis.
If you have a friend with these symptoms, they may be suffering from anxiety disorder:
- Panic attacks
- Getting angry for seemingly no reason
- Easily irritated
- Excessive worrying
- Avoiding social events
- Tired all the time
- Feeling fearful
- Sleep related issues
Listen to them without giving advice
It’s easy to say do this, do that, but they are as aware of the solutions as anybody else out there. Sometimes, they just need to express themselves and feel heard. They want a friend who does not mind listening to what troubles them. The things that keep them awake at night.
Don’t ask them to relax
When someone’s anxiety is really severe the last thing they can do is relax. They need time to process their emotions and it’s a natural response to a painful event, memory or thought. Fears overcome all other feelings when we are having an anxiety attack. Being there for your friend when this happens is enough. This is something that will work when you try to help a friend with anxiety.
Let them express when they want to
Talking does not always help. When they express a need to be alone to feel better, let them be instead of pressing them to talk about their feelings.
Be gentle with them
If you value the relationship, help them heal by being a friend who is there to nurture and listen to them more compassionately. Be aware that some days will be harder than others and it may affect your own mental health too, so be mindful of this fact.
Make plans that don’t involve large groups
Large crowds may make anxiety worse for some people and unknown faces, sights and sounds may make them more nervous than usual. Check in with them first if they are comfortable with your plans. Social anxiety can be crippling for some people and others may not understand how daunting such occasions seem.
Give them space when they need to be alone
Some people need physical distance as well to get away and heal. Don’t take it personally when they want to be on their own and avoid all social interactions to recuperate.
Don’t get irritated when they seem to be talking about the same problems
It’s very easy to get irritated when you keep hearing about the same incident or problem on a regular basis. Saying ‘get over it’ will not help your friend in any way. Instead of dismissing their fears and their trauma, try to be there as much as you can and work on your own self-care routine too. Dealing with someone else’s anxiety is certainly not an easy task.
Don’t ask them to be positive
Anxiety is not a choice – it’s a condition that needs to be addressed, understood and healed through various helpful practices and coping mechanisms. To help a friend with anxiety, be their supporter, their friend who understands that no two humans are equal and suffering is as real as a positive mindset.
Suggest solutions when it’s appropriate to do so
Encourage your friend to seek therapy and suggest helpful practices such as daily meditation when they seem to be in a better mood than usual.
The priority, in this blog, is to supply the reader with clear and unambiguous information. However, neither The New Me nor Gagan Dhawan makes promises, or guarantees regarding the completeness of the information found here. The content is not a replacement for advice of a licensed professional. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely that of the writer’s.